Why were ancient Egyptians obsessed with cats?

Why were ancient Egyptians obsessed with cats?

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2021-05-02 07:35:28

The ancient Egyptians were known to like cats. In the era when pharaohs ruled the Nile, this ancient civilization has no shortage of cat-inspired handicrafts. From larger-than-life statues to intricate jewels, these vivid works of art have been preserved for thousands of years and they still retain great quality to this day.

The ancient Egyptians turned countless cats into mummies, and even built the world’s first “pet cemetery”. These cemeteries have a history of nearly 2000 years, with most of the cats buried there wearing iron and bead necklaces.

So why did cats have such a high status in ancient Egypt? The ancient Greek historian Herodotus has even recorded that the ancient Egyptians shaved their eyebrows to show respect when their cats died.

In 2018, the Smithsonian Asian Art Museum in Washington, DC, USA hosted an exhibition on the importance of cats in ancient Egypt. Many exhibitions have revealed to everyone the origin of this veneration – ancient Egyptians believed that gods and rulers should have cat-like qualities. Specifically, the ancient Egyptians believed that cats had some ideal personalities such as: on the one hand, they would love, nurture children and be very loyal; on the other hand, they can also be very aggressive, independent, and assertive.

To the ancient Egyptians, these traits made cats seem like a special animal and deserved attention, which may explain why they built so many statues involving cats.

Why were ancient Egyptians obsessed with cats?  - Photo 2.

Sphinx (sphinx) is a statue next to Kafra Pyramid, 73 meters long and looks like the head of a man and the body of a lion. This is possibly the most famous statue in ancient Egypt, although historians do not know why the ancient Egyptians made this giant statue. Likewise, Sakhmet, the goddess of war and powerful medicine in Egyptian mythology, is also depicted as a female lion or a lion-headed girl in a blood-red dress. She is also considered a protector, especially at dawn and dusk.

Another goddess, Bastet, is often depicted as a lion or a cat. The ancient Egyptians believed that the cat was their divine relic. She used to be the goddess of war in Lower Egypt, due to her resemblance to the lion goddess Sekhmet in Upper Egypt, she gradually changed from the god of war to the guardian of the family, symbolizing warmth and family fun.

Why were ancient Egyptians obsessed with cats?  Photo 3.

The ancient Egyptians were particularly fond of cats, possibly because they were extremely capable of hunting, especially rats and snakes. Researchers at University College London say that ancient Egyptians even named their children after cats or gave them names meaning cats – for example naming girls “Mitt. “(means cat). It is not clear when cats began to be domesticated in Egypt, but archaeologists have uncovered some ancient graves of cats and kittens dating back to 3800 BC.

However, many studies have shown that this obsession is not limited to love. There is archaeological evidence that the ancient Egyptians’ passion for cats had a more cruel side. Between 700 BC and 300 AD, ancient Egypt probably formed a cat industry, first breeding large numbers of kittens, then killing them and making mummies for burial. with human mummies.

Why were ancient Egyptians obsessed with cats?  - Photo 4.

In a study published in Scientific Reports in 2020, scientists performed micro-CT x-rays of animal mummies in ancient Egypt, including cat mummies. Through the scan, the researchers were able to understand the cat’s bone structure in detail and the materials used in its mummification process.

When the researchers received the scans, the cat used for the mummification was in much smaller condition than expected. “It was a very young cat, but we didn’t realize that prior to scanning because most of the mummies (about 50%) were made of cloth,” study author at Swansea University, Wang UK, said Professor Richard Johnston. “When we saw it on the screen, we realized it was still very small when it died” – at less than 5 months old, the cat’s neck was artificially broken.

Why were ancient Egyptians obsessed with cats?  Photo 5.

Mary-Ann Pools Wegner, associate professor of Egyptian archeology at the University of Toronto in Canada, said that many animal mummies were actually used as sacrifices to ancient Egyptian gods. This is a way to quench your anger or ask the gods for help in addition to a verbal prayer. But until now, we still don’t know why the ancient Egyptians wanted to buy cats for mummies during funerals.

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